Friday, 6 May 2011

Is bigger always better?

How to maximise your mining and herbing returns in a troll-eat-troll world

druid-trafalgarCollecting herb and ore has seen thousands of wow players over the years spending countless hours stooped over their computer into the long hours of the night filling their bags full of crap hard earned bounty.  Whether you’re a hardcore raider, serious casual player or just like dabbling with trade skills, collection of these consumables is vital.  there is an argument to say you could do anything which makes money and then use that money to buy these consumables, or the end products they’re used to craft from the AH, but where's the fun in that? (not apart from the fact that all professions offer their own unique soulbound items or buffs only to the characters which pursue them.    

This post takes a look at the finer art of collecting and I’ve gone to great lengths to research it, further than in any other post, and spent a whopping great eight hours compiling information for it, that’s more than a days work!  why have I done this I hear you ask?  Well firstly, I needed ore to level blacksmithing (just because, ok) and I needed to stock up on herbs to feed my alchemy and inscription habits.  My regular reader will know about my druid herber / miner toon, created solely to pull up weeds and smash lumps of rock (ok, so I’ve since found I quite like healing with her too).

So Why a (Tauren) druid?  well firstly I got hacked off collecting herbs on my mage and being constantly beaten to the weed by some git druid who doesn’t have to dismount / remount to pick the herb, which also allows you to avoid a lot of time consuming combat with local mobs.  Secondly the speed at which Taurens can pick herbs; considerably faster than other races.  Thirdly the instant flight form shape shift, gives a considerable performance improvement (especially when you’re competing with other miners for the same veins who have to mount up). Fourthly, the feral abilities mean you can slap down any inconsiderate mob(s) who happen to pick a fight when you’re mining.

There are a few other classes which I recon would be decent for collecting, mages for their blink & disappear abilities, rogues for vanish, hunters for fein death etc. but the instant cast flight form and not having to shape shift (i.e. dismount) for herbing sold it for me.
I’ve also made a point of learning both collection (discounting skinning and enchanting as they're more killing and collecting), I’ve had individual miners and herbers for a long period, and it always struck me how much time i was wasting doing one at a time, so I bit the bullet and reorganised my professions between alts to accommodate this, and wow has it paid off!

So you’ve got your collector toon up to level 85, and you’re about to set out on your first run, where should you go? good question, there are quite a few questions you need to ask yourself – firstly what is your priority item? are you collecting stuff to sell on the AH? are you looking to feed a fabricating profession (like blacksmithing or alchemy) habit? or are you looking to just collect raw materials for for of the ‘destructive’ professions like inscription or gem crafting where you don't care what the raw material is, you just want to mill or prospect it.

If you don’t care about the type of material you’re collecting, you might be surprised at which areas may be the most profitable for you to use (by profitable I mean in terms of both AH value and item yield), more of that in a moment.  If you’re looking to use specific items, such as Elementium or Pyrite, you’ll be restricted to specific zones.  Items like Twilight Jasmine only grow in one zone, so if you must have that item for a specific potion you must go to the Twilight Highlands. You need to consider both the number of available ‘nodes’ in the zone, and the comparable difficulty (i.e. time) in getting between them, for example, Zone A might have 100 nodes, but be massive, Zone B having 80 nodes but being half the size of A would generally mean that the average distance between nodes is closer, thus you’ll get more reward for your time.

Pick your primary aim(s), and head to the zone which offers the best reward for them, lets say for the sake of argument, my priorities are Obsidium and Cinderbloom, I’ve got a choice between Mount Hyjal and Deepholm, as both zones offer both in abundance.  Ore tends to be harder to come by, in my experience, so I pick myself a route which takes my through the most populous areas for ore, stopping off for any herbs I see, one exception for this is whiptail in Uldum, which only really grows on river banks where there are few ore nodes, so I make a detour on my route to encompass the rivers.  Use gatherer to plan your route, I always also have a secondary screen up with a map of the locations of my primary item type from wowhead.

The last thing to look at is competition, the time of day you collect is key.  If possible look to collect at off peak times when there are few others around to compete with, i tend to do a /who ‘zone name’ before heading out just to check how many other level 85s there are there (or if there are any other names which I recognise as being miners or herbers, or both, from previous outings).  There are two ways to dealing with competition; passively - you either give up and wait till later or go somewhere else.  Or you go on the offensive and beat your opponent forcing them to either give up themselves or accept a reduced reward.  Both will generally lead to a reduced reward for yourself, it depends on how confident you are.  If you are confident you can beat them, stay and fight, if not spend your time elsewhere.

So you’re off collecting, is there anything more you can do to to aid collection?  well yes, of course there is, or I wouldn’t of mentioned it would I? silly.  If you’re a seasoned collector, you may notice that the little yellow dots sometimes appear on the mini map after you’ve passed them with alarming frequency, this isn’t due to you being the luckiest soul alive and seeing multiple node re-spawns, I’m pretty sure this is down to server lag (i.e. you’re moving so fast the map hasn’t updated from the server to your screen in time).  I tend to fly in a slight zig zag, nothing to severe, this has both the effect of slowing your ‘map movement’ down a touch in order to give the nodes time to appear, and it means that you cover more ground in the candidate areas; veins tend to spawn on staggered ridges, simply flying straight along the edge of one of these will generally put you out of range of some of the spawns.  Make sure you use your downtime wisely, you have a couple of seconds when you’re hitting a vein or picking a herb, use this to your advantage and plan your next move, take a look at your map and spin round to face the direction of your next move, you can do this without interrupting the collection.  This is especially important when you can see several yellow dots, you want to get to them as soon as possible else someone else might beat you to them.

If you do see multiple dots on the minimap, I tend to go for the herbs first if I’m not worried about competition, pick the herbs quickly, and then shape shift for the ore.  If there is competition in the area, hit the high value ore targets first, if you have to lose something it should be the less valuable stuff, and from experience there tends to be more miners out there than herbers.  If you do encounter competition, and you decide to ‘stay and fight’ make sure you know your route well, and make sure you know any little short cuts which you might be able to sacrifice in order to get in front of your opponent, who is more than likely on a similar route to you.

So what about this extensive research? Well here it is! basically I spent a couple of days over the bank holiday, when I should have been drinking, but illness had other ideas, running different zones and recording the results to see which would actually be the best.  I did a quick straw poll of my guild:

“where’s the best place to mine?”

“where’s the best place to herb?”

I didn’t qualify either of the questions intentionally, I just wanted to see what peoples initial reaction was, unsurprisingly that Uldum and Deepholm came out on top, and Mount Hyjal got absolutely no votes.  Looking at wowhead, I compiled this table of the number of nodes in each zone:

From this table you can see that Uldum has the most herbs, Deepholm the most ore, and Deepholm again for a combined total.  So it’s simple right? never leave these two zones for mining and herbing right? wrong.  These numbers, expose the problems with statistics, on the face of it they’re best, but these raw figures don’t take into consideration the size of the zone (i.e. the average distance between nodes) or the competition (I'm assuming respawn times are the same from zone to zone as I have no means of gathering evidence to the contrary).

So how do we tell which is the best zone then?  here’s what I did:  I ‘sampled’ each zone, for a few runs of between 15 and 45 minutes and took the average yields of each, I also recorded the population of the zone from a /who before and after each run (this wont take into account alliance toons in the zone, so should be used as an indication only but given the ratio of characters from your server you can take an educated guess (or create a toon on the other faction and do a /who there too, I’m just not that anal… ok, I am, but I’ve only just thought of it). I recorded the contents of my bags at the end of each run, and also made notes of the number of nodes I lost to competition, and the number of times I was forced to kill aggrod mobs when mining.  I actually abandoned an Uldum run after four or five minutes having seen three other miners and two herbers in that time, in hindsight I with I’d carried on to get some figures of how bad it can actually be with sustained competition, but I didn’t, so tough luck…

nodes collected
This is actually a cut down version for display as the full list is too wide to fit on a web page and still be able to read without something in the Hubble range of magnification, a full break down can be found in the spread sheet here.

As you can see from the (full spread sheet) table, my best run was in Deepholm with a massive 13.27 ore & herbs per minute, but surprisingly the next best, and probably most consistently good (if looking at total yield) was Mount Hyjal! this is due in my view, to lack of competition from other collectors who assume its rubbish, the relative small size of the collecting areas, and the ease at which mobs can be dispatched or avoided due to their lower level.  When you dig a little deeper (pun intended) due to the amount of Elementium and Pyrite available, Uldum would seem to be the best, if your primary aim is profit from the AH or Black Smithing. 
So which is actually the best then? well I’m afraid there isn’t an answer any more concrete than ‘it depends’.  It depends on what you’re aiming to achieve, and the competition you’re facing.  For pure blacksmithing, due to the pyrite content, I’d say it's got to be Uldum, if you’re focus is ore for prospecting, then Deepholm has to shade it because you get both Elementium and Obsidium.  If you’re collecting herbs simply to mill (and thus you don’t care what they are) then Deepholm is also the place for you.  If you’re looking to use the herbs for potions, then you need to target the zones which have the best yield of the brand of herb you need, clearly Whiptail and Twilight Jasmine only grow in Uldum and Twilight Highlands respectively, so you’re pretty restricted.  the only zone I’d not bother with is Vashir, the swimming around is too slow, and, although it’s relatively small with absolutely no competition, the nodes are too sparse.  My real top tip, is consider Mount Hyjal, my own assumptions and my quick straw poll completely overlooked it, but the lack of competition means it is actually pretty good.  As a collector who is after stuff for Blacksmithing, Prospecting, Inscription and Alchemy, my general hunting grounds will be Uldum, Deepholm and Mount Hyjal, with an occasional forray into the Twilight Highlands when I need to stock up on Jasmine.  If you’re collecting purely for profit and sticking everything on the AH, then it’s even more dependant on your servers economy, you need to have a look at what’s going for the best prices on the auction house and tailor your runs accordingly.

One thing to note, I think I’ve probably done Uldum a little bit of a disservice on the herbing front, my feeling is that there are far more herbs, but I was primarily following a mining route with occasional trips down the river for whiptail, I pretty much ignored the other herb locations.
Finally, my tips for more effective collecting
  • roll a Tauren Druid
  • have both mining and herbing professions on the same character
  • invest in the fastest flying skill available
  • bind your shape shift to flight form to an easily accessibly key (I use the middle mouse button)
  • avoid combat wherever possible, it slows you down
  • install gatherer
  • plan your zones / rough route in advance
  • do a quick /who to check a zones population and for ‘usual suspects’ who are regular competitors
  • decide your tactics on competition, stay and compete, or give up / move to another zone
  • try and collect in off peak times if possible
  • when you’re actually collecting an item, quickly flick to the map to reorient yourself and plan your next hop
  • don’t dwell on the occasional nodes which you can’t get to or appear / disappear as you move, there are a few bugged nodes about due to clipping or phasing issues
  • make sure you have plenty of room in your bags
  • don’t be afraid to utilise the AH, if you need Cinderbloom and its 20s whilst Elementium is 20g, spend your time collecting Elementium, sell it and buy Cinderbloom
One last note, the ‘druid’ pictured at the top was an Eagle which swooped past my face in the centre of London as I was mid way through writing this post,  I can only assume he was trying to beat me to a node in the centre of Trafalgar Square and sat there mocking me as I walked away empty handed…
It’s also worth noting that the time I’ve spent doing the ‘research’ is by no means statistically significant, do do a proper statistical study I’d probably need to make my own addon and get lots of people to use it over a period of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment